Posts Tagged: NCVO

Changing media coverage of charities won’t be easy

The idea that negative media coverage doesn’t affect charities’ income seems to be losing credence. Last summer, the head of Oxfam’s market insight team told a Market Research Society event that charities should stop wasting resources defending themselves against critics of charity administration costs and salaries because such critics wouldn’t donate to them anyway; and the RSPCA told me in November that the Daily Mail’s open season on the charity over the past two years had had no effect on its bottom line. Read more on Changing media coverage of charities won’t be easy…

Talking points from the Trustee Conference

With a keynote that was well argued and well received, with attendees nodding their approval, Philip Kirkpatrick was perhaps the highlight of Monday’s Trustee Conference, organised by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations and supported by Kirkpatrick’s firm Bates Wells Braithwaite, which marked the start of Trustees’ Week.

Here’s a buffet of the other things that piqued my appetite in between Kirkpatrick, and the short and light speech from the charities minister Rob Wilson that rounded off the day. Bon appétit! Read more on Talking points from the Trustee Conference…

Talking tough on Hard Talk

It’s the trademark of the BBC news channel’s Hard Talk to give its interviewees a good pummelling. And the gravel-voiced Stephen Sackur didn’t hold back when questioning Sir Stuart Etherington, of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, about the big society at the weekend.

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Civil society sounds grandiose, but what is it?

So off we go with the name game once more.

A couple of years ago the Conservatives said the Office of the Third Sector would be renamed the Office of Civil Society to denote the increased importance they wanted to give it. Then they said there had been a rethink and money was too tight for such a bigging-up. And just before the election they went back to plan A, not because money was less tight again but because David Cameron didn’t like the term ‘third sector.’

He was probably influenced by the sentimentalists who argue that it should, if anything, be the ‘first sector’ and that ‘third sector’ is too easily equated with ‘third rate.’ So the Office of Civil Society it is, and Nick Hurd rejoices in the name of Minister for Civil Society. Well, at least they stopped short of the Office of Big Society.

But the questions still remain: what is civil society, and do people understand the term any more readily than ‘third sector’, or the various other unsatisfactory alternatives that have been touted?

The National Council for Voluntary Organisations has firmly hitched its wagon to the ‘civil society’ horse, as has one sector media organisation. The NCVO Almanac makes it clear that civil society, in its view, includes universities and trade associations, for example. Does the NCVO, or the media organisation, or the new OCS, take a day to day interest in or have any responsibility for, those parts of society? Of course they don’t. Maybe there’s a grandiosity and feel-good effect created by the term. At least the NCVO has stopped short of becoming the National Council for Civil Society Organisations.

‘Civil society’ is a term imported from countries with entirely different political, social and philosophical traditions. Most people in Britain don’t readily recognise what it is meant to mean, and the attempt to use it creates a raft of inconsistency and contradiction. Are charities, trade associations and housing associations really in the same boat?

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What happened to the big splash on the Compact?

2010 was supposed to be the year of the big push for the Compact. “Next year is an important time to make a big splash,” said Richard Corden, chief executive of the Commission for the Compact, when the cross-sector fair play agreement was refreshed in December.

At the time, the Compact was still reeling from the breach by third sector minister Angela Smith and criticism that the new version didn’t cater for the needs of community groups and black and minority ethnic groups.

Corden said the new document should learn from the mistakes of the old version and be promoted better. But four months on, where is the noise?

The Compact advocacy programme at the NCVO used to publish an annual report saying how many cases it had investigated with details of some of the issues. It wasn’t afraid to shame the government department that committed serial breaches – or to pat on the back the good ones.

Since its feisty manager Saskia Daggett departed it has adopted a low-key, softly-softly approach to its work and this week told Third Sector it would not be producing an annual report in 2010.

Compact Voice, which represents the voluntary sector on Compact issues, has some examples of good practice on its website; the commission has sponsored some interesting thematic work. But nothing much has happened to generate news or create a sense that the Compact matters.

The emphasis seems to be on handling disputes quietly while making bland public utterings about the value of a strong Compact. This is barely creating a ripple, let alone a splash and if the situation remains then it’s likely that by the next election Third Sector will still have to explain what the Compact is to every public sector press officer and little progress will have been made.

Read more on What happened to the big splash on the Compact?…

Fire and brimstone missing at Unite’s mass meeting for charity workers

The mass meeting last night of charity sector workers organised by Unite showcased a side of the Labour Party rarely seen these days.

Labour MPs initially outnumbered charity workers in committee room 11 of the Palace of Westminster, as delegates battled with hordes of tourists and schoolchildren to get through security. The MPs declared themselves only too anxious to be lobbied on the woes of being a charity worker in the era of competitive tendering, while charities minister, former charity worker and Unite member Angela Smith oozed sympathy and concurred with Unite’s assessment that management in the sector needed to pull its socks up and become “more union-friendly”.

Perhaps this friendly, genteel environment accounted for the lack of fire and brimstone from the floor. One delegate from Edinburgh did his best to get the pulse racing by announcing he was “fed up” with cuts in sick pay and pensions, and of being treated as part of a “second-class workforce” by councils.

Another delegate said he was “quite emotional” about his charity’s announcement that unless its workers work four extra hours a week without increased pay the organisation could go under. “A gun is being held to our heads,” he said.

The Government was also accused of being a “disgrace” for pitting legal charities in direct competition with one another “based on price and nothing else”. But such barbs were spread relatively thinly among reasoned and, in some cases, pre-prepared analyses of contracting culture.

Read more on Fire and brimstone missing at Unite’s mass meeting for charity workers…